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Corncrake and Skuas
Dates: 13th - 19th May 2017
On-shore winds from the west or north-west accompanied by showers will bring both Long-tailed and Pomarine Skuas close in-shore providing us with the opportunity for some superb views of these stunning birds. Visible passage varies each year but with a bit of luck and some wild weather, sea-watching from the headland of Aird an Runair is not to be missed. This is one of, (if not) the premier place in the UK to see these birds in spring. Other species of seabird will also be passing and besides all 4 species of skua, will include Manx Shearwater, Kittiwakes, Arctic Terns and Gannets. If you’re really lucky then we may even see a summer plumage Sabine’s Gull or Leach’s Petrel although conditions do have to be wild to bring these inshore. Divers will also be on the move and both Great Northern Diver and Red-throated Diver will be seen. We have also witnessed passage White-billed Diver on more than one occasion from here in May.
The Uists are also one of the best places in the UK to see the enigmatic Corncrake. They start arriving from their African wintering grounds in late April although May is the best month to catch up with them as they are very active at this time of year with males competing for the best territories. Vegetation is often quite low and limited to stands of iris and nettles which the Corncrakes use for early cover. The distinctive call can often be heard emanating from these patches but with a bit of patience and using the vehicle as a hide we often gain superb views of these normally secretive birds.
Another spectacle at this time of year is the huge numbers of waders bound for the Arctic that throng the beaches and machair with summer plumage Sanderling, Turnstone and Purple Sandpipers amongst masses of Dunlin and Ringed Plover. Some of the bays are so alive with north-bound birds feeding up, that the ground appears to be heaving and the sheer numbers is almost overwhelming. Whimbrel also pass through in good numbers in the first half of May whilst there’s also the chance of a wayward Dotterel or possibly something rarer. Small birds are represented with passerines typical of more open habitats such as Meadow Pipit and Skylark as well as Corn Bunting and Wheatears which can appear to be everywhere as numbers of local breeders are enhanced by migrants heading for Greenland. Summer migrants include Sedge Warbler, Willow Warbler and the odd Chiffchaff although most years we also pick up stray Wood Warbler and possibly Redstart.
All this is backed up with a supporting cast of raptors and breeding divers. 8 species of diurnal birds of prey are available including White-tailed Eagle, Golden Eagle, Hen Harrier, Peregrine and Merlin whilst in addition, Short-eared Owls can regularly be found quartering rough grass and moorland. Add to that, breeding plumage Red-throated, Black-throated and Great Northern Diver and you can't fail to have a good time.
Short list of species: Whooper Swan, Eider, Garganey, Whimbrel, Black-tailed Godwit, Golden Plover, Dotterel, Purple Sandpiper, Glaucous Gull, Great Skua, Arctic Skua, Long-tailed Skua, Pomarine Skua, Corncrake, Short-eared Owl, Golden Eagle, White-tailed Eagle, Hen Harrier, Peregrine, Merlin, Red-throated, Black-throated and Great Northern Divers. Manx Shearwater, Black Guillemot, Corn Bunting, Twite, plus hordes of waders in summer plumage. Red Deer, Grey and Common Seals, Otters. If the weather’s calm enough we will set a moth trap to have a peek at some of the local night life.
Dates: 13th - 19th May 2017
Cost: £800 per person
Accommodation is provided in some of the best local guesthouses for 6 nights.
All meals are provided with evening meals taken in local hotels. If you have special dietry requirements please let us know when bookng.
Group size: 8 (maximum)
Booking: Please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to meet: The tour begins and ends in Uist. If you arrive by plane or as a foot passenger off the ferry we will be there to meet you and take you to your accommodation. If you arrive early and are already in the islands on the first day then you'll be picked up in the morning and we'll explore local habitats and wildlife whilst others arrive during the morning. On the last day we'll continue to search for wildlife until everyone has departed on their various flight / ferry connections.
Getting here: It is possible to reach the islands by both air and ferry. Flybe operate regular flights from Glasgow to Benbecula although the earlier you book the cheaper the fare. Alternatively Calmac operate ferries between Uig, Skye - Lochmaddy, North Uist and from Oban - Lochboisdale, South Uist. Once on the islands I will be there to meet you and take you to your accommodation before we head into the field.